FROM the moment he walked through the front gate at Murrayfield to take over as Edinburgh’s new head coach, Alan Solomons made it clear that he has very specific views on how he expects his team to approach the game of rugby.
Initially, the 65-year-old said he would take two months to assess the playing assets at his disposal before making the changes he deemed necessary, but it was a different story when it came to sorting out his coaching team.
Omar Mouneimne (his combative sidekick from the Southern Kings) was recruited as defence coach within a matter of weeks, quickly followed by Crofton Alexander (who spent six years with Wasps and then worked briefly with the Lawn Tennis Association) as head of strength and conditioning.
Philippe Doussy was also brought in as specialist skills and kicking coach in mid-October, as Solomons wasted no time in making sure he had the management team in place at Edinburgh which he believes can realise his vision of how the game should be played.
The odd man out in terms of the current senior coaching team at Edinburgh is Stevie Scott. He is not a Solomons appointment. The former Edinburgh and Border Reivers player, who was capped 11 times at hooker by Scotland, took over the reins at the capital outfit as interim head coach for the final five games of last season after Michael Bradley was offloaded back in March 2013, and was kept on to oversee the team’s preparation for the current season until Solomons arrived in August, two weeks before the campaign kicked off.
By the time the South African arrived in the country, it had already been announced that Scott had been awarded a full-time contract as assistant coach at Edinburgh – which ensured that there would be at least one Scottish voice on the coaching team at the start of the Solomons era.
While his Borders brogue may be distinctive, Scott has been happy to sing from the South African hymn sheet during the last nine months – and it is no surprise that Solomons has gone out of his way to help his Scottish protégé assimilate his rugby philosophy to the Springbok way of doing things.
Earlier this year, the head coach organised for Scott to take a trip to Pretoria, where he was able to spend a valuable week meeting and exchanging ideas with several key figures at the Bulls, South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby franchise. There is certainly no doubt in Scott’s mind that his trip was a rewarding experience.
“To go there and spend a week with the best line-out forward in the world – which is definitely Victor Matfield – and to learn from him was fantastic. He was very open,” said the 39-year-old.
“It is very similar to what we are doing here – everyone understands line-outs and scrums – but it’s the small detail that make a big difference, and we had some great chats about those small details.’
“It is interesting that there is quite a different thinking process between Super Rugby and the northern hemisphere around set-piece,” continued Scott.
“Their big emphasis is about it being a platform to attack. When they get a scrum, for example, they are thinking you have 16 players tied into this small area so you’ve got space to attack. While in the northern hemisphere it seems sometimes like the first thing people thing about when a scrum is awarded is getting a penalty. So, it was interesting seeing the difference in mindset.
“I can’t thank them enough for the way they made me feel welcome. They set out a full week-long programme for me so that I had things lined up to do every day. It wasn’t just a case of me turning up and standing at the side watching them train. I met Frans Ludeke, the head coach and the most successful South African coach in Super Rugby, so I spent four or five hours with him one day.
“The timing was good as well because Pieter de Villiers, the South African scrum coach, was there and I got to spend a few hours with him. Everybody was very open, and it was just good to sit down and have a coffee, a chat and bounce things off each other.”